My [abbreviated] story:
I grew up on a farm in Northern Indiana, although (unfortunately) it was corn and soybeans, not beautiful flowers. Growing up, I couldn't wait to leave the farm for big dreams in the city, however it's true how circular life is, as I now appreciate more than ever my farm upbringing. That is how Farmgirl got it's name though, which my mom thinks is pretty funny (she's really the farm girl!)
Why I started Farmgirl Flowers:
The number one position on my bucket list was always to start a business doing something innovative and hopefully, at the same time, something that would make a positive impact in the world. Admittedly, many of my kooky ideas fulfilled one mission, but rarely both. When researching the flower industry, I found the perfect opportunity to create a new model that would provide a much better alternative to what’s currently available, while supporting local business and agriculture. It seemed like the perfect idea to me (obvi, like every entrepreneur), however taking the risk to jump off the comfy steady paycheck ledge was still pretty terrifying. I'm so glad I did though!
How I came up with the Farmgirl model:
Figuring out the problems (or should I say opportunities for improvement) was the easy part. The floral industry was suffering in a major way because there were so many problems and so little innovation. In fact, the most recent innovation occurred in the late 90’s, which was moving the sourcing from local to offshore, which just caused more issues in the industry. After identifying what I thought to be the biggest issues – imports, waste, aesthetic (yes, I’m a floral snob!), and price, I just figured out ways to solve each problem, which is how our innovative model was born. Before launching though – and investing every penny to my name – I did informal focus groups to see how the public responded, and after figuring out it was a good risk, launched in SF to beta test the model.
How I came up with Farmgirl’s trademarked burlap wrapped bouquet:
After the unique model, creating a way to differentiate our flowers was extremely important to me. Similar to Levi’s red tab, Coke’s bottle shape, and Nike’s swoosh, I wanted to create a brand identity that would allow customers to easily identify our bouquets. Originally, I came up with a list of 14 ideas of materials to use in place of traditional cellophane (that's been used for ages). The first thing I did was research to see if anyone came up with the idea first – after all, I wanted to differentiate our product, not copy someone else’s. That research eliminated a few ideas. Then I tested my top three favorite’s and polled my friends – which is how our trademarked burlap wrap bouquet was born. I’m so happy our customers love it as much as I do!
What’s next for Farmgirl?
The goal has always been world domination. Ha, joking – kind of. We launched Farmgirl with a goal of creating a socially conscious, and all around better, alternative to traditional eCommerce flower companies. We’re working toward that goal by now offering expanded Bay Area delivery and CA wide shipping, as well opening an LA satellite in early 2015. New York is also coming down the pipe – with more det’s soon!
Why local is so important to me:
Way back in 2009, when I started researching the floral industry, I came to some pretty startling conclusions. Like eye-twitching, queasy stomach, startling conclusions. The flower industry has gone through a very tumultuous time in the past 20 years, and is pretty much in the same boat as the industries that numerous documentaries have been made about in recent years (ie: textiles, coffee, technology, etc). What used to be a big domestic business is now being whittled away due to the growth and competition of imports. The fact that 80% of our flowers are now imported should concern us all – not only because it’s putting so many of our neighbors out of work, but because it’s horrible for our environment, which I think we all can agree should be important to us. The fact that 80% of the flowers sold in the US would have more frequent flier miles than me, is really nonsensical. Especially when that’s led to 58% of US flower farmers going out of business in the past 25 years. And, get this – the leading reason why they’re dropping like flies? Because they can’t stay competitive when they’re paying living wages – to the tune of approximately $104/day per worker, as opposed to the $6/day a Columbian flower worker earns. It’s no wonder US grown costs more, huh? You know what – it’s worth it. And that’s why it’s so important to me.
Advice for other makers & entrepreneurs:
I’m often asked for advice from others looking to start their own businesses – creative or not – on what the secret sauce is for success. I’m often stumped, searching the nooks and crannies of my brain trying to figure out what to say to seem really intellectual, where the requestor will walk away enlightened and thinking how brilliant I am. Well here it is. Sadly, there is no secret sauce (which means I probably don't sound too brilliant now :). Just like money doesn’t grow on trees – secret sauce isn’t packaged in a cute lil’ bottle. In my opinion, it mostly just boils down to perseverance, resilience, and good ol’ fashioned hard work. That’s it folks. Starting a company has been the hardest thing I've ever done. It's brutal, and I’m not exaggerating. You may feel like a failure at times - which is probably new for all those type A’s used to superstar status in previous careers. You'll probably shed some tears (no matter how tough you are) - especially given how sleep deprived you’ll be from the 20+ hour days you're working. But if you trudge through it all, and work really, really hard, it’ll all be worth it.
I had to include this, since everyone asks! Like about 90% of women out there – my fav flower has to be a Peony. Specifically that rare perfect shade of peach Tree Peony, but I'll take 'em all. Really though, I can’t just pick one. How fair would the be to all the seasons?! I also have a sweet spot for Ornamental Kale (obvi, given we use it in just about every arrangment!), Garden Roses, blush Anemones, peach Ranunculus, the perfect pinkish/green Scabiosa...oh, forget it - how can I pick? It's like picking a favorite child!
*Have additional questions? You can email me at Christina@farmgirlflowers.com.